What afflicts Amartya Sen? – Bharat Gupt

Prof. Amartya Sen

Bharat GuptAmartya Sen converted Nalanda into a club that promotes a certain variant of a modern political agenda in the service of a political party. And so, now if a new, democratically-elected Government has shown him the door, why is he raising the bogey of academic victimization?” – Prof Bharat Gupt

The former head of the Nalanda University, Amartya Sen writing in the New York Review makes wild and sweeping allegations against the Narendra Modi Government even as he conceals his own record of not showing accounts for the massive ₹2727 crores financial package allocated to it over a period of 12 years. Equally, Amartya Sen also has no response to widespread allegations against him of appointing favourites to various positions, even people who are unqualified to occupy the position of a Vice Chancellor.

At the outset, Amartya Sen’s New York Review article only betrays the deep prejudice that he holds in his very vision of Nalanda University. In the piece, he emphasizes more about the international nature of the new Nalanda University but not the real content of the knowledge systems—vidyaas—that were imparted at the ancient Nalanda.

It was that content of the traditional Indian knowledge systems, which was sought after by students from all countries in the world and thus Nalanda became an international site for excellence in higher education.

I may be called a revivalist, but I am not interested in another ‘international university’ nor should the Indian taxpayer be, Modi Government or no.

I am interested in reviving the classical learning of India, of its Sanskrit and Prakrit texts which provide the disciplines on which Indian civilization was built and which Nalanda served to propound.

Amartya Sen has his vision of international exchange much before he sought to make Nalanda a repository of Indian learning. There is no place for ancient learning in his conception of the present day Nalanda. As he claims in his article,

The aim of the founders of the new Nalanda was not only to have a first-rate university but to encourage cooperation and interchange of ideas across national borders (again, reflecting the traditions of the ancient Nalanda). They endorsed a “vision” of a new university that would be “open to currents of thought and practice from around the globe….

In which case, why is Sen using the name of Nalanda for this aim? There are dozens of universities in India which can do that including JNU which was founded for this purpose and which failed in this very aim because it disparaged classical learning.

If the taxpayer from India and other Asian lands has to recreate Nalanda, then that place needs to include classical learning. Were the fine European Universities not based on a revival of Greek and Roman classical thought? However, this very notion of Indian classical is either anathema to nearly all Indian policy makers or they are completely ignorant of the necessity of such a notion.

Indeed, the thought of including Indian learning at Nalanda University never was and will never be on the agenda of Amartya Sen. His long record shows that he belongs to the coterie that wilfully and strategically eliminated and denigrated every aspect of traditional knowledge in schools and universities.

We have witnessed this phenomenon in India since 1973 as a policy that began with the appointment of Nurul Hasan as the education minister by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

This unleashed a deliberate and systematic process as a result of which we do not find many scholars now who can read ancient Prakrits (not even classical Tamil) or even Sanskrit texts in relation to the areas of knowledge with any deep understanding(what was known as lakshya-lakshana sambandha).

Amartya Sen has made the same mistake which has been the bane of Indian education policymakers: of creating a modernity which is cut off from its past. When Amartya Sen was made the chief mentor by the Sonia Gandhi-controlled Government and when former Indian President Abdul Kalam, walked away from the project, the fate of Nalanda was sealed.

Given this background, Modi Government or no, the outcome of all that will emerge from Nalanda University will remain the same.

And now Amartya Sen is playing the victim now—the less said the better about his present theatrics. Also, this is not the place to give qualification details of sycophants appointed as heads of academic bodies and vice chancellors by Congress/Marxist governments in the last sixty years, forty years of which I have seen with my own eyes.

But now that Amartya Sen has set the ball rolling in the New York Review, similar material echoing the “injustice” done to him and supporting his fake victimhood is sure to appear in the media soon.

Of course, Amartya Sen is free to ridicule Lokesh Chandra by quoting Lokesh Chandra’s statement given in a political context and applying that statement to tar his credentials for being appointed as Chairman of ICCR. However, everybody in the academic and intellectual circles is aware of the phenomenal academic contribution of Lokesh Chandra (and his father Dr. Raghuvir) to classical learning and Buddhist studies, beginning from the days of penury when India emerged from colonial rule.

On the contrary, Amartya Sen converted Nalanda into a club that promotes a certain variant of a modern political agenda in the service of a political party. And so, now if a new, democratically-elected Government has shown him the door, why is he raising the bogey of academic victimization?

My concern in writing this, especially to scholars who are devoted to the real practice and discipline of studying of texts and vidyas of India is to think about a simple, basic fact: can the modern Nalanda University have any connection with the ancient one unless it first dedicated itself to what they studied in ancient times?

It is time for us to speak up for classical learning at the new Nalanda University, and any Government that overlooks this or replaces it with another aim shall be abdicating its duty. Invoking the hoary Nalanda of the past to promote political ideologies is tantamount to invoking it in vain and doing it great disservice. IndiaFacts, 13 July 2015

» Dr. Bharat Gupt is a retired Associate Professor who taught at Delhi University. He can be contacted at bharatgupt@vsnl.com.


Amartya Sen,

 The Bihar Times: Nalanda University Articles 

Ten Questions Nalanda University must reply 
Gopa’s crony appointment had Amartya’s approval
Kalam’s letter bared truth about Nalanda University 
Why Nitish is silent on Nalanda University and making CUB a prestige issue?
Parliamentary panel cuts Nalanda University to size
Toilet or Honolulu Trip-Parliament disgusted with Nalanda University development 
Killing Nalanda  Spirit: Arise and Save Nalanda
Why Kalam’s resignation was concealed?
Nalanda University website resurfaces with new name
Nalanda University: How Amartya advanced his favourite candidate as the VC
Recreating Nalanda University: Let Tsona Gontse Rinpoche be the new Vice Chancellor
Nalanda University off the Internet again
Nalanda University orphaned: Governing Board term expires 
Bihar has been a parochial state in India: Amartya Sen
Nalanda University website skirts RTI issue
N.K. Singh falters in his promise on Nalanda controversy

See also 

  1. A letter to Amartya Sen – Sandipan Deb
  2. Amartya Sen: The ignoble laureate – Sandeep
  3. The Jagdish Bhagwati Interview – Sheela Bhatt
  4. Amartya Sen: Intellectual dilettantism at India’s expense – Anirban Ganguly
  5. 1 – How history was made up at Nalanda – Arun Shourie
  6. 2 – An “eminent historian” attacks Arun Shourie – Koenraad Elst
  7. Nalanda, where science met spirituality – Claude Arpi
  8. Nalanda University: Essence of arbitrariness in every decision – Express News Service
  9. Amartya Sen delays project and overspends public funds on new Nalanda University – J. S. Rajput

6 Responses

  1. Madhu Kishwar ‏@madhukishwar 4h4 hours ago

    3/n Amartya Sen preaches ethics to world but himself most unethical & alleged to be compulsive womaniser. Multiple marriages & relationships
    213 retweets 77 favorites Madhu Kishwar ‏@madhukishwar 4h4 hours ago

    2/n I have it from Amartya Sen’s first wife that he never provided any support for bringing up two little daughters, was totally callous
    245 retweets 83 favorites Madhu Kishwar ‏@madhukishwar 4h4 hours ago

    First act of fame of Amartya Sen? Abandoned his young wife with two little baby daughters & stole wife of his own colleague at D School 1/n

    The final twitter of stealing the wife of a colleague is true. It is always talked about in Delhi University circles. One feels Madhu Kishwar has opened up. Delhi University academia like Sardindu Mukerji and others should open up on this and show A. Sen’s true colors.

    Sens first wifes view.

    She has described him as “a good economist but a bad money manager”, and “a clumsy father until the children grew old enough to be his students”.


  2. “thought of including Indian learning at Nalanda University never was and will never be on the agenda of Amartya Sen. His long record shows that he belongs to the coterie that wilfully and strategically eliminated and denigrated every aspect of traditional knowledge in schools and universities”.
    This line says it all. He is western spy wanting to kill India again.

  3. Nothing ails Amartya Sen. WE (and the Norwegian Economics Nobel Establishment) who have awarded and rewarded Sen are the ailing ones.

  4. Nalanda University’s new Catholic chancellor George Yeo sits on two high-powered Vatican committees, the Vatican Media Committee and the Secretariat for the Economy (which oversees the economic activity of the Holy See and Vatican City State).

    The right thing to do would be to appoint a Buddhist scholar to the chancellorship. But Sen has seen to it that there are no Buddhists within calling distance of the once-Buddhist university!

  5. What about building a monument at the door of the New Nalanda to all those monks in the ancient old Nalanda who became victims of mass murdering Jehaadis…Would that be too politically incorrect to speak the truth? Shame on Sen and his likes…

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